K058 : Palais Royale | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


K058 : Palais Royale

Item details

Name of item: K058 : Palais Royale
Other name/s: Hillside; Glen Eric, Assembly of God Bible College
Primary address: 228 Katoomba Street, Katoomba, NSW 2780
Local govt. area: Blue Mountains
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
228 Katoomba StreetKatoombaBlue Mountains   Primary Address

Statement of significance:

The Palais Royale has been a major guesthouse with a spectacular ballroom for over 50 years. It has been a social focus in the area, first as a convent school, and then as a guesthouse and dancehall, then as a Bible college, and now again as a luxury hotel. The Palais Royale is a fine representative example of a substantial c.1930 guesthouse and has an imposing presence on Katoomba Street, close to the town centre. While the guesthouse originally evolved from a pair of matching houses, the present building is unusual as a design which has clearly been intended for use as a quality guesthouse.
The building has a high level of detailing inlcuding the use of bevelled glass, leadlight and unusually fine terrazzo paving.
The Palais Royale is a fine example of the work of the local architect H.L. Blackwood.
Date significance updated: 30 Nov 99
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: H. L. Blackwood
Construction years: 1896-1999
Physical description: Substantial 2 storey hipped roof building facing west to Katoomba Street with a third level at the rear allowed by the fall of the site to the east. The symmetrical building has north and south wings either side of a central entry wing. A ground floor loggia on the west side has alternating arches and square openings.
The side wings have gablets to the roof and a catslide roof over a cantilevered semi-recessed first floor balcony with paired timber posts. An arched window next to the balcony reflects the arches to the loggias on the ground floor.
The central wing is recessed between the north and south wings except for a central gabled front with a flat roofed glazed balcony with massive corner columns over the central ground floor entry to the loggia. The central bay of the loggia also has massive rendered columns. The first floor balconies have skirted spandrels faced with pressed metal in a shingled pattern.
The central bay behind the loggia has double hung leadlight windows and the entry doors are located in the bay immediately south of the central bay. Entry doors from the loggia to the side wings are multi-paned bevelled glass pairs of doors.
The loggia is paved in terrazzo and the entry path is terrazzo with the name Palais Royale set into the paving.
The north wing has leadlight double hung windows and the south wing has plain double hung windows. A 2 storey building in the north east corner of the site has a corrugated steel skillion roof and is connected to the north wing
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Date condition updated:30 Nov 99
Modifications and dates: External steel fire stairs.
Concrete tile roof
Chimneys removed
Terrazzo replaced?
Current use: Private Hotel
Former use: Residence; School; Convent; Guesthouse; Bible College;


Historical notes: Tourism to the Blue Mountains developed in the late nineteenth century, when the fresh mountain air and scenic views were promoted as a healthy retreat for consumptives and "business people seeking rest and change from the stifling atmosphere and nose and bustle of town nights." (Tourists’ Guide. 1887: 4) With the opening of the great western railway across the Mountains to Wentworth Falls in 1867 and then to Mount Victoria in 1868, the journey to the Blue Mountains was made more comfortable and accessible to the upper and middle classes. A simple timber platform at Katoomba was opened in 1874. (Spriggs. 1962: 56-67) The opening of the Great Western Hotel (soon to become the Carrington) at Katoomba in 1882 guaranteed that Katoomba would evolve into the tourist centre of the Blue Mountains. From the 1890s, guesthouses began to appear along the major scenic villages of the Blue Mountains, particularly Katoomba, Blackheath, Wentworth Falls, Springwood and Lawson. Tourism continued to develop in the first two decades of the twentieth century, with the 1920s being the heyday of the guesthouses. (Silvey. 1996: 1-26)

Before becoming the guesthouse known as the Palais Royale, the two buildings on Katoomba street functioned as a convent, day and boarding school, and later guesthouse. The two cottages which form the Palais Royale were built in 1896 by Mr Spear of Summer Hill and were named Glen Eric and Hillside. In 1900 the Sisters of Charity obtained Glen Eric and the house became known as St. Canice’s convent. (Silvey: 66) Within a year, the Sisters of Charity had opened a school under their direction, using both Glen Eric and Hillside. Known as Mount St Mary’s Ladies’ College, the college was a "Day School and Boarding School for Young Ladies". They offered English, French Latin, German, Mathematics, Plain and Fancy Needlework, Drawing, Painting, Wood Carving, Callisthenics, Vocal and Instrumental Music. (Katoomba & Leura Tourist Association. 1905: xxxi) As the two buildings soon became inadequate for the purposes of the school, a new site was decided upon up near the Court House, with His Eminence Cardinal Moran laying the foundation stone for the new building in April 1909. The Sisters of Charity moved into their new school at the start of 1910. (Rotary Club. 1982: 120)

By 1912 the two (?) buildings were being used as a guesthouse. The proprietress Miss Jessie Nichol adopted one of the original names of the cottages, and the establishment was known as "Hillside". She offered "comfortable accommodation" for 50 visitors and fees were from 30s per week. (Government Tourist Bureau. 1912: 127, 134) In 1914 Miss Nichol shifted the residence for her guesthouse to Waratah Street, taking the name Hillside with her. However the twin cottages continued to be used as a guesthouse.

The Palais Royale is first mentioned in 1921. (Silvey) The guesthouse was up for sale in April 1923 by Soper Bros. The terms were "25% deposit - £500 per annum, balance end of 3 years, interest 7 percent". (Katoomba town subdivision plan. ZTP: K1/ 039) The Palais Royale appears to have been bought by Mrs A. Marsh, since in 1924 she was advertising the guesthouse could accommodate 130 guests. The business prospered and by c.1930 the Palais Royale was revamped and given a new impressive cream-coloured facade with a classical style portico. Nevertheless the original roof line and chimneys were still discernible in a 1931 photograph. One of the new additions to the Palais Royale in the 1930s was its ballroom. The private ballroom with "3-piece orchestra" was advertised as "the largest on the Blue Mountains" and "one of the most beautiful ballrooms in Australia". The description which the Marshes supplied in one advertisement was quite simply bedazzling:

"The whole of the walls, from the seats to the frieze, have been panelled in bevelled mirrors. The effect created is entrancing and magnificent, and gives the impression, on entering, of walking into a vastness of space. The ballroom is illuminated from hanging baskets of ferns, carrying festoons of coloured fairy lights. As each wall reflects into that opposite, these lights are repeated thousands of times into a vast infinity producing a truly amazing effect." (advertisement quoted in Silvey: 66)

The ballroom was a popular dancing venue until the 1950s. (Silvey: 15)

The Palais Royale continued to run as a private hotel during the declining guesthouse tourism in the 1950s and 60s, but in the 1970s it was bought, along with another guesthouse opposite called the Homedale, by the Assembly of God. The building became a bible college, providing accommodation for single students and lectures in the ballroom. (Silvey: 66) In 1999, after extensive renovation, the Palais Royale resumed its existence as a luxury private hotel.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
6. Educating-Educating Education-Activities associated with teaching and learning by children and adults, formally and informally. (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Leisure-Activities associated with recreation and relaxation (none)-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship (none)-


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Local Environmental PlanLEP2005K05807 Oct 05 122 
Heritage study K058   

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Blue Mountains Heritage Study1983K058Croft & Associates Pty Ltd & Meredith Walker  Yes
Heritage Study Review, Blue Mountains1992K058Tropman and TropmanRIJ & PH Yes
Technical Audit BM Heritage Register2008K058Blue Mountains City CouncilCity Planning Branch No

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Graphic 1982Old Leura and Katoomba
Written 1887Tourists Guide to the Blue Mountains
WrittenGovernment Tourist Bureau, The1912The Tourist Directory (Hotel and Boarding House) for New South Wales, 7th edition
WrittenKatoomba & Leura Tourist Association, The1905The Blue Mountains. Katoomba and Leura, advertisement for Mount St Mary's Ladies' College p. Xxxi
WrittenKatoomba Municipality1912Official Tourist Guide to Katoomba & Leura
WrittenKatoomba town subdivision plan ZTP: K1/039 - Mount St Mary's Convent Estate, Katoomba
WrittenNSW Government Bureau1931Hotel, Guest-House and Tourist Guide in NSW - the official directory for tourists and travellers
WrittenNSW Government Tourist Bureau1931Hotel, Guest-house and Tourist Guide in NSW
WrittenSilvey, Gwen1996Happy Days: Blue Mountains Guesthouses Remembered
WrittenSpriggs, P. W.1962Our Blue Mountains Yesterdays

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Local Government
Database number: 1170016

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